Name: Michael Esposito
Age: 44 (As of July 20)
Hometown: Seaford, New York
Chip Count: 16,260,000 (6th overall)
Occupation: Commodity Broker, New York City
Marital Status: Single (Girlfriend)
Children: James (21) and Nicole (13)
Poker Experience: Amateur, plays only a couple times a year as a hobby
WSOP Earnings: $24,934
WSOP Cashes: 2 (2006, 2009)
Main Event Results: 1 previous cash (2006: 540th place for $22,266)
2012 WSOP: Events Entered: 1 Events Cashed: 1
Esposito was interviewed tableside shortly after the October Nine was decided (July 16). Here is the transcript of that interview:
WSOP: When you entered this event eight or so days ago, what were your expectations?
ESPOSITO: My expectations were really the final table. That was the only reason I came. I came in with a mindset just to go. I played in it a few years past where I tried to win it early on. This year I kind of went in with a different philosophy that I would just go day to day and play day to day. Now I’ve got a shot.
WSOP: What about that philosophy do you think helped you out here?
ESPOSITO: I think that I didn’t push off the stack. I didn’t try to run over the field. I think a lot of players who tried to do that aren’t here anymore. I am happy to be here.
WSOP: You’re a triathlete, so your body has been through a lot of strain. Talk about those marathons versus this marathon?
ESPOSITO: You know, it’s a long grind. Sometimes you are going to go on tilt and things are going to go bad. You just keep trying and keep pushing and keep going forward. You try not to get discouraged and hopefully it will be a good October.
WSOP: Do you draw from similar things when competing in a triathlon versus a grueling tournament like this?
ESPOSITO: You just try to be disciplined, you know? It takes a lot of discipline to go far and that’s it. I just tried to stay along those lines.
WSOP: What kind of support did you get from family and friends back home during the event?
ESPOSITO: I had a lot of friends and people texting me. My girlfriend was here for a bit. There was a lot of love shown to me and it was greatly appreciated. I know a lot of people were following me online. I was really just trying to be low key. Everybody kept sending me congratulations and they were watching. They were praying for me. God bless them.
WSOP: What would it mean to you to bring this home to your family friends that love and support you?
ESPOSITO: It would mean a lot to me. I came here to win it and hopefully that is what it will be. I think they would all share in the excitement of it.
WSOP: What was the initial spark that got you into poker?
ESPOSITO: I used to play a lot of Seven-Card Stud. I used to come out here to play the Seven-Card Stud events. Really, Hold’em took off and then I started playing Hold’em. I paid a lot of dues in the game learning through the years.
WSOP: Being a past participant, was there any reason in particular you decided to play this year’s Main Event?
ESPOSITO: Last year I was going through some turmoil. Different things were going on in my life. The year before I had played and went out set over set and it was just another hard year in the Main Event. Last year I just took the year off, but I started doing triathlons. I actually decided to go to Ireland. Basically it was a decision, ‘Come to the World Series (of Poker), or go to Ireland on vacation with my son.’ And I chose to go to Ireland with my son. I never regretted it. I think the year break did me good. I had planned (to play the Main Event) the whole year and I came out here in June and I played a couple small warm-up tournaments at The Venetian. The first tournament I played, I split. I was just in a good mindset to play. I basically was looking to come out and have a good World Series of Poker.
WSOP: When you aren’t playing poker, what is a typical day like for you home in New York?
ESPOSITO: I get up at 4:50 in the morning and I either go running or I ride my bike. Then I go to work. I take a 7:04 train to work and then I get in the city and I work until about 5 o’clock. Then I come home and I swim three days a week. The nights I don’t swim, I have dinner with my daughter every Wednesday. That’s basically my week. On the weekends, it depends what is going on with my kids. Besides that, most weekends I ride my bike for 50 to 60 miles every Saturday and I swim and run a little bit. That’s about it.
WSOP: What is your motivation to keep that routine and put your body through that?
ESPOSITO: You know what? I was in bad shape. At one point in my life I was 223 lbs and I was a smoker. In my early 30s I felt like I was about 55 and now I’m 43 and I feel like I’m about 25. So, it’s a big difference.
WSOP: Outside of the WSOP, how much poker are you playing?
ESPOSITO: I have to be honest with you, I don’t really play that much poker at all anymore. I usually play the Harrah’s WSOP Circuit event in Atlantic City, which I’ve done pretty well in. I usually play the $1,000 buy-in there. I usually go there in December, and to be honest with you, I don’t really have the time. Most of the events are five and six days long and it doesn’t really fit into my life schedule. I look for events that are short. The Main Event was a commitment to come, but I knew and I planned this a year in advance that I was going to be here for this.
WSOP: What was the turning point in the Main Event when you really felt you had a shot to make the final table?
ESPOSITO: I felt I had the chance before I got here. The biggest hand I played the whole event was early on Day 1. I had ace king and basically it was a multiple-raised hand, and I really was not a big fan. I knew the player was really aggressive and it basically was raised back and forth. He ended up calling my last raise. The board paired nines with a three. I checked and he made a big bet and I called. The turn came up an empty card and we both checked. On the river he put in a huge bet to bet me off the hand and I took like ten minutes to think about it. I just had a feeling he had ace queen. I was like, ‘You know what? If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.’ I called with the ace king and it basically put me in good contention. I never cared where I was in comparison in chips. I just went day to day. Everyday I was okay. I stopped texting people chip counts because every time I texted a chip count I came back and lost a third of my stack. My texts went like, ‘Doing okay. Good shape.’ I wasn’t saying anything. My goal was to make it day to day and that’s all I did. Now it will be a good day in October. Hopefully I got two more days of good poker left.
WSOP: You said you entered this tournament, to win. Is that for the $8.5 million or the bracelet?
ESPOSITO: Trust me, the money is more important than the bracelet. If you wanted to tell me that I could come in second and get the $8.5 million and the other guy could have the $5 million, I’d sign up for that deal right now. I don’t need any of the stuff that goes with it. Realistically, my year to play poker next year will probably be very similar to my year to play poker this year. I’ll play in a few small tournaments during the year. If something works work-wise I might play something else next year. Maybe I’ll play two or three small tournaments and the Main Event next year. It’s really not going to make that big of a difference. But, I’m hoping this can get me in the Ironman World Championship in October because they have a big media thing, so maybe they’ll give me a slot to go. I’m going to try to see if I can do that. I’m going to try to play that card.
WSOP: How much would that race mean to you? Is there an amount of money you’d give up if it meant running it?
ESPOSITO: It’s very expensive to do, it’s not a cheap hobby. I qualified for a big race in Vermont, but I’m going to be on a waiting list. But that’s very exciting. I’m not one of these guys who is going to pay $100,000 to go to the race. I did the New York City triathlon, same thing, it was a lottery.
WSOP: If you won $8.5 million would you do anything differently? Maybe enter some of those expensive races?
ESPOSITO: Honestly, I’d just go live the same life I live. I have a pretty happy life. The $8.5 million, believe me it would be the greatest thing. But I have a pretty content, happy life. I don’t need cars, I have a nice house, I have a nice quiet life. I like my life.
WSOP: How did you feel when you knew you were one of the final nine?
ESPOSITO: I was excited. I was kind of relieved it was over. It was a long couple of days. I basically did a race in New York Sunday. I had to get up at 3:45 in the morning in New York Sunday to be at the race at 5 o’clock in the morning. Then I did the race, I went back to Long Island, brought all my stuff home, ran to J.F.K., jumped on the 6 o’clock flight, flew out here. The flight got delayed an hour and a half. I got out here at 11 o’clock Sunday night. I picked up a rental car. I got here, I got my I.D.. I ran to the Bellagio, picked up Chinese food. Got into my room, ate the food at like 1 o’clock in the morning. I got up in the morning and worked out and ran -- which I probably shouldn’t have. I should have taken the day off, but I was worried about sitting down the whole day. The smart thing I did, though, was on Tuesday I went hiking at Mount Charleston and I had a nice, quiet, relaxing day and I went out for an early dinner. I probably went to sleep by 9:30. That was it. That really put me pretty good.
WSOP: Are you going to go home and study your game?
ESPOSITO: Not at all. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go home. I’m going to relax. I’m going to do everything I’ve been doing the whole time before I came here. I know these guys are all watching every hand. Half the time I don’t even know what I’m going to do or what I’m doing. Whatever it is, it will be months later. I’m just going to come back and play every hand as one hand. You can’t really make a decision in advance. How many people came in every day as the chip leader and then they weren’t here because they came in with the thought, ‘Okay. I’m pressing the field.’ I’m just going to enjoy the moment, come back in October and see what happens.